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BENEDICT


469


BENEDICT


together, and this not merely for a course of train- ing, but as a permanent element of hfe at its best. The Rule conceives the superiors as always present and in constant touch with everj' member of the household. This explains its characteristic form of government, which is best described as patriarchal, or paternal (ibid., ii, iii, Ixiv). The superior is the head of a family; all are the permanent members of a household. Hence, too, much of the spiritual teaching of the Rule is concealed under legislation which seems purely social and domestic organization (ibid.,xxii-xxxii,xxxv-xli). So intimately connected with domestic life is the whole framework and teach- ing of the Rule that a Benedictine may be more truly said to enter or join a particular household than to join an order. The social character of Bene- dictine life has found expression in a fixed tj-pe for monasteries and in the kind of works which Bene- dictines undertake, and it is secured by an absolute communism ia possessions (ibid., xxxiii, xx.xiv, hv, Iv), by the rigorous suppression of all differences of worldly rank — "no one of noble birth may [for that reason] be put before him that was formerly a slave" (ibid., ii), and by the enforced presence of everj'one at the routine duties of the household.

4. .Although private ownership is most strictly forbidden by the Rule, it was no part of St. Bene- dict's conception of monastic life that his monks, as a body, should strip themselves of all wealth and live upon the alms of the charitable; rather his pur- pose was to restrict the requirements of the in- dividual to what was necessary and simple, and to secure that the use and administration of the cor- porate possessions should be in strict accord with the teaching of the Gospel. The Benedictine ideal of poverty is quite different from the Franciscan. The Benedictine takes no explicit vow of poverty; he only vows obedience according to the Rule. The Rule allows all that is necessarj' to each individual, together with sufficient and varied clothing, abund- ant food (excluding only the flesh of quadrupeds), wine, and ample sleep (ibid., xxxix, xl. xh, Iv). Possessions could be held in common, they might be large, but they were to be administered for the furtherance of the work of the community and for the benefit of others. While the individual monk was poor, the monastery was to be in a position to give alms, not to be compelled to seek them. It was to relieve the poor, to clothe the naked, to \'isit the sick, to bury the dea<l, to help the afflicted (ibid., iv), to entertain all strangers (ibid., hii). The poor came to Benedict to get help to pay their clebts (Dial. St. Greg., xxvii); tliey came for food (ibid., xxi, xx\nii).

o. St. Benedict originated a form of government wliich is deser\-ing of study. It is contained in chapters ii. iii, xxxi, Ixiv, Ixv of the Rule and in certain pregnant phra.ses scattered through other chapters. As with the Rule itself, so also his scheme of govern- ment is intended not for an order but for a single com- munity. He presupposes that the commimity have bound' themselves, by their promi.se of stability, to spend their lives together imder the Rule. The superior is then elected by a free and imiversal suffrage. The government may be described as a monarchy, with the Rule as its constitution. Within the four comers of the Rule everything is left to the discretion of the abbot, the abuse of whose authority is checked by rehgion (Rule, ii), by open debate with the community on all important matters, and w-ith its representative elders in smaller concerns (ibid., iii). The reality of the.se checks upon the wilfulness of the ruler can be appreciated only when it is remem- bered that ruler and community were bound to- gether for life, that all were inspired by the .single purpose of carrying out the conception of hfe taught in the Gospel, and that the relations of the members II.— 30


of the community to one another and to the abbot, and of the abbot to them, were elevated and spirit- ualized by a mysticism which set before itself ttie acceptance of the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount as real and work-a-day truths.

6. (a) When a Christian household, a community, has been organized by the willing acceptance of its social duties and responsibilities, by obedience to an authority, and. further, is imder the continuous disciphne of work and self-denial, the next step in the regeneration of its members in their return to God is prayer. The Rule deals directly and ex- plicitly only with public prayer. For this Benedict assigns the Psalms and Canticles, with readings from the Scriptures and Fathers. He devotes eleven chapters out of the seventy-three of his Rule to regulating this public prayer, and it is characteristic of the freedom of his Rule and of the "moderation" of the saint, that he concludes his very careful di- rections by sajnng that if any superior does not like his arrangement he is free to make another; this only he says he will insist on, that the whole Psalter shall be said in the course of a week. The practice of the holy Fathers, he adds, was resolutely "to say in a single day what I pray we tepid monks may get through in a whole week" (ibid., xviii). On the other hand, he checks indiscreet zeal by lajTng down the general rule "that prayer made in common must always be short" (ibid., xx). It is very difficult to reduce St. Benedict's teaching on prayer to a system. for this reason, that in his conception of the Christian character, prayer is coextensive with the whole life, and hfe is not complete at any point unless penetrated by praj'er.

(b) The form of prayer which thus covers the whole of our waking hours, St. Benedict calls the first degree of humility. It consists in realizing the presence of God (ibid., ^^i). The first step begins when the spiritual is joined to the merely human, or. as the saint expresses it, it is the first step in a ladder, the rungs of which rest at one end in the body and at the other in the soul. The ability to exercise this form of prayer is fostered by that care of the " heart " on which the saint so often insi-sts; and the heart is saved from the dissipation that would result from social intercourse by the habit of mind which sees in every one Christ Himself. "Let the sick be served in verj' deed as Christ Himself" (ibid., xxxvi). "Let all guests that come be received as Christ" (ibid., liii). "Whether we be slaves or freemen, we are all one in Christ and bear an equal rank in the service of Our Lord" (ibid., ii).

(c) Secondly, there is public prayer. This is short and to be said at intervals, at night and at seven distinct hours during the day, so that, when possible, there shall be no great interval without a call to formal, vocal, public prayer (ibid., xvi). The posi- tion which St. Benedict gave to public, common prayer can be best described by saying that he es- tablished it as the centre of the common life to which he boimd his monks. It was the consecration, not only of the individual, but of the whole community to God by the oft-roncated daily public acts of faith. and of praise and adoration of the Creator; and this public worship of God, the opus Dei, was to form the chief work of his monks, and to be the source from which all other works took their inspiration, their direction, and their strength.

(d) Lastly, there is private prayer, for which the saint does not legislate. It follows individual gifts — "If anyone wishes to pray in private, let him go quietly into the oratorj' and pray, not with a loud voice, but with tears and fervour of heart " (ibid.. Iii). "Our prayer ought to be short and with purity of heart, except it be perchance prolonged by the inspiration of divine grace" (ibid., xx). But if St. Benedict gives no further directions on private